Thursday, February 28, 2013

Blue Valentine

Time and time again, we get the typical love story from Hollywood. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they get married and they live happily ever after. Fast forward a few years down the line. Is it still the same?

This is what Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine explores. Through flashbacks, we see how Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) met and eventually marry. But in the present, it's clear that the honeymoon is definitely over. What caused their love to die out?

Cindy initially wasn't very into Dean, but she softened up to him after a while. It's likely she was unsure about them getting married but kept it hidden. Williams displays Cindy's somewhat insecure nature in a subtle way. (Her performance here is also proof that Williams is one of the best actresses working today.)

Dean in turn is somewhat similar. He admitted he never had any plans of settling down but when he realized his marriage is crumbling, he's willing to do anything to keep Cindy in his life. Who better than Gosling to play this role? (How was he not equally nominated?)

If you think there will be some happy moments in this, forget it. It just gets more and more depressing with each scene. It's still a great film though thanks to the work from Cianfrance, Gosling and Williams. It's just not the ideal thing to watch if you're in a steady relationship. (It is ideal if you've just gotten out of a relationship...I think.)

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We Need to Talk About Kevin

It doesn't take long after being introduced to her in Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin that the viewer realizes Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) is trying to regain at least some composure in her life. Try as she might, it won't happen.

Through various flashbacks, we see what got her in this desperate situation. The main contribution to her distress is her son Kevin. Even since day one, he's made Eva's life hell. Her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) shrugs it off as "boys will be boys" behavior. Oh, how wrong he was.

Swinton's performance here was ranked as one of the most egregious Oscar snubs of the last five years. (Well, her and Michael Fassbender in Shame.) And for good reason too. She takes all of the verbal (and in one instance physical) abuse with complete dignity yet she looks as though she's on the verge of mental collapse. This performance also convinced me that I need to see more of Swinton's work.

I also must talk about Erza Miller, who plays the teenage terror that is Kevin. There's that little glint in his eyes that just screams somethings' amiss in his mind. (That stare of his is horrifying.) I can tell Miller's going to be around for a while.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a really fascinating film. (It also convinced me to never have kids.) Ramsay gives a portrait of dissolving family dynamics and boy, is it good. Also, this would make for an interesting double feature with Rosemary's Baby.

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Seven Beauties

Even throughout its eighty-five years of existence, a majority of the films and performances nominated by AMPAS are strictly remembered because of their nominations. (This is the situation for a majority of the supporting acting nominees.)

This is also the case with Seven Beauties evidently. Nowadays it's mostly remembered because director Lina Wertmuller became the first woman nominated for Best Director for that film. (Its star Ginacarlo Giannini also garnered a nomination.) Not a lot of people even know what it's about.

Seven Beauties revolves around a small-time hood (Giannini) during World War II. He finds himself in a concentration camp and is willing to do anything to stay alive, including having sex with the obese commandant (Shirley Stoler).

The way Wertmuller makes Seven Beauties has the film border on the line between farce and tragedy. It's not exactly the same way as, say, Fellini might do with his films, but it's definitely bold on Wertmuller's part. (More female directors need to be this adventurous.)

All in all, Seven Beauties is a good film but...odd. I'm not sure if Wertmuller's films are normally like that, but it's a different change of pace. Giannini is also good as well. If you like unconventional films, then I'm sure you'll like this.

My Rating: ****

Friday, February 22, 2013

Open Thread

What's on your mind? Seeing anything this weekend? Planning to watch the Oscars this Sunday?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Killer Joe

During the first few moments of William Friedkin's Killer Joe, you get the assumption that the film is going to be focusing on the trailer trash family. It doesn't take long to realize that there's something much darker going on.

What exactly? They're planning a murder so they can get the insurance payout. They even hire a hit man (Matthew McConaughey). The deed's done quite quickly, but it's the aftermath of the crime where the true horror happens.

It's really revolting that people can simply plan a murder without giving a second thought. They don't give a damn about anything except themselves and their own personal cravings. This is precisely why humans are the scariest beings alive.

And boy, do the actors prove that fact effortlessly. Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon shine in their unsympathetic roles. Juno Temple is practically the embodiment of corruptible innocence here. But it should come as no surprise (especially now) that McConaughey is the best among the cast. (I wonder how many jaws were dropping when people finally realized he could act?)

Man, this film is brutal. (Then again, what else do you expect from a film called Killer Joe?) Perhaps even too brutal for Friedkin's standards. (Best proof? That now infamous fried chicken scene.) Also, I really hope August: Osage County (another work of writer Tracy Letts) isn't as vicious in its depiction of human behavior.

My Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Before Sunset

Sequels always seem unnecessary. They're only made strictly because the studios are greedy. Very rarely are they made because the director and stars want to continue the story.

The latter situation was fortunately the case when Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy made Before Sunset, their follow-up for Before Sunrise. Set nine years after the previous film's events, this film chronicles the possibility of Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) getting together.

The mood here is definitely different from Before Sunrise. After all, they're meeting each other by chance after nine years of no communication. Naturally their conversations start on a somewhat uncomfortable note. But it's even after that you can tell it won't be easy for either Jesse or Celine.

Also, their physical interactions are much more different. In Before Sunrise, they're quite comfortable with kissing having only known each other for several hours. Here, they keep their distance. (Makes sense actually; Jesse's now married with a kid while Celine's seeing someone.) Still, I think this makes their bond strengthen. (Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all.)

This is one of those few times where I like the sequel more than the original film. I simply found it more engaging that Before Sunrise, even though I love both films. Now I understand why so many people love these films.

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Before Sunrise

I'll admit that I'm a cynic. I don't believe that love can form within a short time span. And yet at the same time, I'm a hopeful romantic. (My heart will ache if I see romance handled properly in fiction.)

Now Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise focuses on the very thing that I criticize yet it's handled in a very lovely manner. A film about two people simply talking to one another sounds boring to some. To others, it sounds perfect.

Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the film is simply quiet musing of a possible relationship coming to life. Physical attraction is not the main focus here. It's more about their shared beliefs of the world around them.

That's the other thing I liked about Before Sunrise. Their conversations didn't sound fake in the slightest. (Then again, it doesn't hurt that Hawke and Delpy had a hand in writing the script.) It's a simple thing like that I admire.

Anyway, Before Sunrise definitely managed to soften my cynical heart. It just goes to show you don't need a film full of sex scenes to make for a great love story. Man, am I looking forward to the next chapter of this story.

My Rating: *****

Monday, February 18, 2013

The "SONSOFBITCHES!" Snubathon

The lovely Mette of Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions has commissioned a blogathon for her readers/fellow bloggers. Well, more accurately, it's a snubathon. If it wasn't clear enough from the name alone, it's a blogathon chronicling the the most unforgivable snubs in Oscar history. If you knew me enough, I would've just been rambling on and on about stars of Hollywood's past. I decided not to go down that route and opted for ones from the last decade. Sorry, rambling. Moving on!

The rules speculated that one choice for the most offensive snub was to be discussed. But I saw a few posts doing a whole list, so that's what I'm doing. Ten male performances and ten female performances, all ignored by AMPAS. (Some may not be downright cruel that they were ignored, but I was somewhat surprised when I found out they weren't nominated.) My somewhat long list starts after the jump.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Since I have no other ideas for a post whatsoever, I might as well ask you all a question.

Which actors took you a while to warm up to?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Actor

Hey, it's that time of year that moviegoers both love and hate: Oscar season! Over at the Large Association of Movie Blogs (or LAMB), they've kickstarted their annual feature where LAMB members analyze the Oscar nominees. This year, I decided to chip in my two cents on a category. (Maybe because for once, I've actually seen most of the frontrunners while they were in theaters.) The category of my choice? Best Actor.

I have to admit, this year's lineup is pretty good. Most of the performances that got nominated I was quite impressed by. But which of the five gents do I think has the best chance of going home with Oscar gold? Let's look at the nominees, shall we?

Our first actor is Bradley Cooper, garnering his first Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook. Usually noted for his roles in low-brow comedies, Cooper proves to the naysayers that he can act. In a role originally intended for Mark Wahlberg, Cooper displays his character of Pat Solitano's unstable and insecure nature without making it blunt. (Let's face it. Any actor could overdo portraying a character with bipolar disorder.) Sure, the fact he's playing the "Oscar bait" card with this role might be obvious to some, but you can't deny that he gives a damn good performance.

Earning his fifth Oscar nomination is Daniel Day-Lewis, nominated for Lincoln. As I said in my review of the film, the thought of Day-Lewis merely acting as Abraham Lincoln completely disappears the minute we first see him in action. (But then again, that's the case with a large majority of his roles.) Suffice to say he overshadows his many co-stars. (Though Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones, who were also nominated, manage to get their moments in the spotlight.) Yet another great performance from a great actor.

Also new to the Oscar race is Hugh Jackman, nominated for Les Miserables. He tackles the one genre that seems so strange for any action star to do: the musical. (But if you consider his pre-Hollywood career, then it doesn't seem as strange.) Anyone who's seen The Fountain or The Prestige knows that Jackman can handle the heavy material and as Jean Valjean, he gets a role he can really sink his claws teeth into. Is it a role he was destined to play? Seems very much like it.

Claiming his third Oscar nomination (his second for Best Actor) is Joaquin Phoenix for The Master. Phoenix has always been a great (albeit possibly crazy) actor, and his performance in The Master essentially confirms that fact. Much like Brando's Terry Malloy and Dean's Jim Stark, Phoenix's Freddie Quell is the defiant anti-hero yearning for acceptance. He ends up finding said acceptance amid the wrong kind of people. And even though Freddie is a man of unpredictable behavior, Phoenix shows the (very) few redeeming qualities in Freddie to make us sympathize for him.

And finally we have Denzel Washington, earning his sixth Oscar nomination (his fourth for Best Actor) for Flight. As I very clearly (and repeatedly) stated in my review, I was not all that impressed with the film. (Washington himself just a bit more but barely.) As "Whip" Whitaker, he goes through the usual cliches of the struggling-to-quit alcoholic. Granted, he does have his moments towards the end of the film, but this just seems like a throwaway role for Washington. (I've a sneaking suspicion AMPAS just wanted another A-lister among their list of nominees.)

Basically the Oscar will be going to Day-Lewis because a) he's been winning everything across the board this season, and b) he's Daniel Day-Lewis. That said, however, I have a glimmer of hope for Phoenix. The more I think about Phoenix's performance, the more I realize how unflinching it really is. (The processing scene is the best showcase of that.) Now that would be one hell of an upset.

Who do you think will take home the coveted statuette?

Friday, February 15, 2013


Within in the first few moments of his appearance in Robert Zemeckis' Flight, it's clear that "Whip" Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is a man who needs a fix constantly. He drinks, snorts cocaine, even huffs the emergency oxygen on the plane. It's an interesting establishing character sequence, but the film itself deteriorates quite quickly.

It's not long before the film essentially becomes a huge PSA for substance abuse. Yes, the fact he flew (and then crashed) an airplane under the influence is unforgivable, but did you really need to cram that fact down our throats? (Granted, it's the premise of the film, but still.) Subtly is not present at any point in this film.

There are also a number of elements of Flight that weren't really needed. For starters, was the Kelly Reilly character really necessary? She basically just shows up and leaves without doing anything significant. And the God motifs throughout? Ugh.

Now don't get me wrong. Washington is a very fine actor, but he really could have done better here. He has his moments but ultimately it becomes the typical "alcoholic trying to clean up his act" role we see every other year. (If you want to see a good example of that role from last year, go see Smashed.)

To say I was underwhelmed by Flight is an understatement. The script is bogged down with almost every cliche possible about this material, which is ultimately the film's downfall. (How the hell did it get nominated?) A few worthwhile scenes here and there but all in all, Flight is a film that needs improvements. Big time.

My Rating: ***1/2

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Fountain

Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain is a rather unusual film. It floats between romance and philosophical drama yet it stays focused on themes of life and death. And knowing Aronofsky, I could sense he could handle this easily.

I mean, he made the most hideous depiction of substance abuse in the form of Requiem for a Dream. And The Wrestler and Black Swan shows how far a person can push themselves physically. If anyone could make a philosophical art film about life and death, it would be Aronofsky.

Starring in The Fountain are Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, both ideal for their several roles. However, this show belongs to Jackman. To think he was known for his action movie roles then. This is proof that he's a legit actor and will be getting more serious roles in the near future. (Well, this, The Prestige and more recently Les Miserables.)

Of course, I must talk about Clint Mansell's score. When paired with a scene of Jackman's character enduring absolute heartbreak, it rises the film to a new level. Also, Matthew Libatique's cinematography is equally gorgeous. (The best feature? Weisz being captured in an ethereal white light.)

The Fountain, as mentioned above, is a very gorgeous film. The story loses something in certain scenes but both Aronofsky and Jackman keep the film afloat for a majority of the time. It's not the best of the Aronofsky films I've seen but it's definitely the most intriguing of them all.

My Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Even in the most grim of subjects, there's a certain beauty in it all. It sounds bizarre but it's true. The ruined remains of buildings, the charred aftermath of a fire...these things have a certain beauty to them.

Yojiro Takita's Departures focuses on a somewhat dark subject: preparing bodies for burial. But Takita doesn't make his film unbearably grim. It instead is a quiet musing on the last stage in life.

At some point in our lives, we'll witness the death of a friend or a loved one. And saying goodbye to them will be hard to do. Daigo (Masahiro Motoki) witnesses many families coming to terms with the deaths of loved ones, some more reluctantly than others. But again, it's something we all have to face at some point.

Again, Takita handles a heavy subject very delicately. Most other films will rely too heavily on the grief of the character(s). Not here in Departures. It's more of an outsider's perspective on grieving, something not commonly found among film.

Departures is a very lovely film, thanks mostly in part to the score by Joe Hisaishi. A few of the final scenes left a bit of an impact on me because of recent personal events. Who would have thought there would be beauty in death?

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Side Effects

Sad. Quiet. Anxious. These are a few words that could easily describe Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) upon first seeing her in Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects. Those moods could be explained by her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) being released from prison, but there might be something more deep-rooted.

At least that's what her psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) thinks. He sees Emily as initially as a woman on the verge of self-destruction. (After all, they first meet after Emily tried to kill herself.) It's not until much later on that he finds out what she's capable of.

Mara is absolutely great here. It takes real skill for an actor to switch emotions in the blink of an eye. Mara does that very thing here and boy, is she good at it. I can tell her Hollywood career will be long and plentiful.

I can't go on without talking about Law's work. Possibly one of the more underappreciated actors working today, Law showcases that he's more than just a pretty face. You can just see how horrified he slowly becomes as the film progresses. (Seriously, how does he not have better roles now?)

Side Effects is really great. Just when you think you've gotten everything, it pulls a new stunt. It's practically a shame that Soderbergh is retiring. He definitely has a few more films in him. (Oh, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is all sorts of bewitching femme fatale material.)

My Rating: ****1/2

Monday, February 11, 2013

Shoot the Piano Player

Even with some of his more serious works, Francois Truffaut always has an air of comedy in his films. I think that's what makes him an admired director. (At least in my humble opinion.)

He second film Shoot the Piano Player displays such a trait. Revolving around the quiet life of a barroom pianist, the film is a light homage to the gangster films Hollywood produced. (Looks like the French love American films as much as the other way around.)

Now this film doesn't get as much recognition as it probably should. Well, there are a few logical reasons. For starters, bear in mind what Truffaut's previous film was. Second, this was released the same year as another French film paying homage to American gangster films. That film? Jean-Lu Godard's Breathless.

Granted, both films have their noted differences. Godard's film is more driven the gangster whereas Truffaut's film prefers the bystander. It also helps that Truffaut's film is more playful that Godard's. (Actually, that last description is most of their films in general.)

Anyway, I really liked Shoot the Piano Player. Not as much as Day for Night or The 400 Blows but enough. I am more intrigued as to what else Truffaut made and that's something I'll be venturing throughout this year. Definitely.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Skin I Live In

At some point in a director's career, they have to do a film outside of their comfort zone. For example, a director famed for his blood-soaked crime dramas does something more family friendly. (Likewise, a director known for lighter fare goes down a darker route.) It's bound to happen at some point.

Pedro Almodovar has a career peppered with brightly colored melodramas about women and the people they encounter. Granted, a majority of them have dark themes but either way, they end on a positive (albeit bittersweet) note. It would only be a matter of time before he went down a much more darker road.

He did that in the form of The Skin I Live In. It's as far from the multi-colored romps he's associated with as possible. (It still revolves around a woman though.) And like his earlier films, Almodovar isn't afraid to be daring.

Now the influences for this film are clear if you've seen said influences. The main one is Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face, obvious since both films focus on a surgeon performing disturbing surgeries for his own personal gain. The other is Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, also obvious since the woman is told to have a uncanny resemblance to the surgeon's dead wife.

Long story short, The Skin I Live In is a brilliant film. It's one of those films that'll stick in your mind once it's over. (The provocative nature of it practically ensures that.) If you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do.

My Rating: *****

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Red Desert

It's established early on in Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert that Giuliana (Monica Vitti) is a woman on the verge of mental collapse. But from what precisely? The lack of her husband's presence? The constantly changing world around her? Both?

Antonioni decides to explore both possibilities. Indeed, Giuliana's husband is at work throughout a majority of the film, so we understand why she feels so alone. Every day, she's left alone with their son and her insecurities. It's only a matter of time before her insecurities make her unravel completely.

The other possibility is the environment Giuliana is trapped in is slowly driving her mad. Machinery rising to the heavens, skies filling with poisonous smoke, the never-ending clanging of metal...this is also what Giuliana has to endure every day. Another clear understanding as to why she's going to pieces.

Thanks to cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, he makes the world Giuliana's a part of both horrendous and beautiful. The red factory pipes, the yellow smoke, Giuliana's green coat...they all make the film look alive and dead. (I wonder if any later films took such a cue.)

Red Desert is a brilliant film that could be relevant even to today's standards. (Global warming and industrialization, y'know?) Vitti gives a brave performance of someone on the breaking point and unable to do anything about it. It was a daring film back in 1964 and it still is forty-nine years later.

My Rating: *****

Friday, February 8, 2013

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Taste of Cherry

What's the point of living if we're inevitably going to die? You can lead a very prominent life but your reputation will be forgotten sooner or later. So why bother living?

This is something Abbas Kiarostami explores thoroughly in Taste of Cherry. Life will carry on without anyone noticing that you're gone. This is apparently the thought running through Badii's (Homayoon Irshadi) mind. No one will miss him when he's gone, so might as well end it all now.

On that note, we never do find out why Badii intends to end his life. End of a relationship? Loss of a job? Unknown mental illness? There are many possibilities but none clearly answered.

Another noted feature of Taste of Cherry is the cinematography by Homayoon Payvar. Many of the shots are of Badii in his car, looking for an accomplice for his deeds. Rarely does the camera drift out of the car to focus on the scenery around him. The camera only wants Badii.

Taste of Cherry was very good but I didn't adore it as much as I did with Certified Copy. However, both films essentially confirmed that Kiarostami is a director I'm keeping an eye on. The reason? Not only are his films gorgeously shot but his characters are very interesting to watch.

My Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


The 1960s were practically synonymous with politics. And nothing is more synonymous with 1960s politics than assassinations. JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X...their deaths defined a decade.

Another slain figure of the decade was Grigoris Lambrakis, who was killed six months before JFK's assassination. His murder was documented in Costa-Gavras' Z. Knowing how Costa-Gavras could depict conspiracy thanks to Missing, I was intrigued as to how he would deliver here.

Boy, did he deliver to the fullest. Like what he would do with Missing thirteen years later, Costa-Gavras blends political messages with tension to ensure a captivated audience. (Man, Hollywood needs to take some pointers from him.)

The actors are great. Jean-Louis Trintignant just radiates determination to solve what happened to Lambrakis. Yves Montand also shines in his limited screen time as Lambrakis. Oh, and Irene Papas. So much sadness in her features. (She plays Lambrakis' wife.) So little dialogue on her part, but her face says everything.

Z is pretty amazing. Films with political themes aren't something I'm overly fond of, but this is definitely one of the best in that field. If you haven't seen it yet...why haven't you? (You won't regret it.)

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hiroshima mon amour

During the opening moments of Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour, the viewer is greeted by shots of two lovers entangled in each other's arms interwoven with footage of the grisly aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing.

The main characters have experienced loss firsthand. The French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) lost her German soldier lover to the war. Her Japanese lover's (Eiji Okada) family was in Hiroshima when the bomb landed. Both are trying to heal their emotional wounds.

Of course, this affair isn't beginning; it's actually in its final hours. Very few films focus on the dying relationships. (Probably because they never end on the happy note cinema often depicts with most filmed affairs.) That's show business, I suppose.

She's recently been receiving high praises for her work in Amour, but it's Riva's work here that showcases her potential as an actress. Just a simple flicker in her face shows her hidden sorrow and troubled mind. As I've said before, that's the sign of a legit actor.

Hiroshima mon amour is a really great film, that's for sure. It sounds simple in concept but it's fantastic in its delivery. Usually I'm not the sentimental type (usually depends on my mood actually), but this got to me.

My Rating: *****

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Royal Affair

It's established quite early on in Nikolaj Arcel's A Royal Affair that Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander) is now ensnared into a bad marriage to King Christian VII of Denmark (Mikkel Folsgaard). How? Simple. He barely shows any interest in her (or the country he's supposed to be ruling), he's very immature, and he's a man of unpredictable behavior (possibly because of a mental illness).

Enter Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), a German doctor who becomes Christian's personal physician. He's also a man of considerable logic; he even helps Christian with his reign of Denmark. It also isn't long before Caroline and Struensee get to know each other more...personally.

As I've said numerous times before, I'm not much for costume dramas. But what Arcel depicts isn't the standard stuffiness found in most films of this kind. Thanks to the vibrant characters and even more vibrant story, he makes A Royal Affair a film with themes very relatable to current events.

Oh, the eye for detail here is just stunning. Whether it be the simplicity of the cinematography or the lavish detail in Caroline's outfits, it's just something I simply must highlight. (I get like this with certain films.)

Anyway, A Royal Affair is an excellent film. There are many excellent things about it, but Mikkelsen's quiet performance definitely tops the list. Just the slight movement of his face says so much. (That to me is a key sign of a legit actor.)

My Rating: *****

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Unwittingly getting involved in a possible scandal. It's amazing at how many characters in fiction get into this situation. Most often they don't realize the situation until it's almost too late.

This is the case with Jules (Frederic Andrei) in Jean-Jacques Beineix's Diva. It started off with him recording a performance of opera singer Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez), who has never done a professional recording at any point in her career. Then Taiwanese record pirates find out about the tape and hotly pursue it.

But that's not all. Jules also unwittingly got a hold of a tape that could very much ruin the career and reputation of a police chief. As a result, criminals are pursuing him for that tape. It's safe to say Jules is looking over his shoulder in fear because of those tapes.

Now a premise like that makes the film sound more nuttier than it is. But Beineix makes his film an honest to God thriller. (Seriously, that chase scene in the subway rivals anything in The French Connection.) The 1980s were full of thrillers; Diva is one of the best.

Safe to say it's a film to watch. Along with Beineix's direction, the cinematography by Philippe Rousselot and the music by Vladimir Cosma are great. This is just more proof that French cinema is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

My Rating: *****

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Magnificent Ambersons

It's always impossible to follow up the project many call your best work. (Why else do you think Harper Lee never wrote anything else after To Kill a Mockingbird?) It must be a daunting task for anyone.

Although Citizen Kane wasn't the essential film back in 1941 as it is today, it still made Orson Welles a maverick in Hollywood albeit a very controversial one. How on earth would Welles follow up his veiled attack on William Randolph Hearst?

How about The Magnificent Ambersons, a film about the shift in society? Even though it got altered without Welles' consent, the film is a stark portrait of changing times and constricted morals. And like Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons is a film that was quite ahead of its time.

Also like Welles' previous film, the way The Magnificent Ambersons was shot is stunning. Much like what Gregg Toland did with Citizen Kane, Stanley Cortez frames The Magnificent Ambersons gorgeously. (Take note, Tom Hooper. This is how you frame a film.)

The Magnificent Ambersons is a very well done film. The actors, particularly Tim Holt and Agnes Moorehead, are great. In my eyes, this is Welles' best film as a director. (I'm sure there are other people out there that agree with me.)

My Rating: *****

Friday, February 1, 2013


I'm not much for westerns. I think it's mostly because of all the bloodshed, both justified and senseless. I like the older westerns if strictly because they don't show said blood on screen. (That, and the themes and motifs.) Still, I'd be willing to watch them.

Such is the case with True Grit. Told from the perspective of Mattie Ross as she recalls events from her youth, the story chronicles a tale of action, adventure and revenge. (Fittingly the very things that can make for any story that sells.)

Charles Portis' novel depicts a world of rough dealings and tough people told through the eyes of a young girl. She understands the many things going on around her but she also sees things with an air of curiosity. She's told constantly to stay away but does she obey? Nope. (That's the kind of character I like.)

Joel and Ethan Coen's film keeps the spirit of Portis' novel very much alive and then some. Their casting choices are perfect, especially Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. She displays Mattie's feisty behavior without any problem. Throw in Roger Deakins' cinematography and Carter Burwell's score, and you've got the ideal western.

It's pretty clear as to which of the two I favor the most. Granted, both are excellent works but one of them tells the story of Mattie Ross better than the other. It makes the story become more alive. Though the other work is very much worth a look too.)

What's worth checking out?: The movie.